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Sunday, February 28, 2021

McDonald, Harrison and Lepchenko Win Titles; Vliegen and Gille Claim ATP Singapore Doubles Championship; Kuzuhara Falls in Brazil Grade 1 Final

After getting shut out last week in the two $25,000 Florida tournaments in Florida, Americans picked up titles today in Boca Raton and Naples

Christian Harrison, who lost in last week's Naples final, came through with his first title since 2017, with the No. 8 seed defeating No. 6 seed Corentin Denolly of France 6-4, 6-2. The 26-year-old, who has had multiple illnesses and surgeries over the past eight years, has lost only two matches this year, in the semifinals of the ATP 250 in Delray Beach and last week's $25K final.

In the doubles final, played on Saturday, Junior Ore(Texas A&M) and Alejandro Gomez(Kentucky) improved on their runner-up finish last week in Naples, with the No. 2 seeds defeating unseeded Diego Hidalgo(Florida) of Ecuador and Cristian Rodriguez of Colombia 6-4, 7-6(4) in the final. 

Varvara Lepchenko, like Harrison a No. 8 seed, has also gone a long time between titles, with the 34-year-old last earning a title in 2018. Lepchenko defeated unseeded 20-year-old Claire Liu 3-6, 6-4, 6-0 in today's Boca Raton $25,000 Women's USTA Pro Circuit final, battling through a 74-minute second set to take control of the match. 

Mackenzie McDonald at Wimbledon 2018

Mackenzie McDonald claimed his third ATP Challenger title today at the 100 in Kazakhstan, dominating No. 6 seed Jurij Rodionov of Austria 6-1, 6-2. McDonald, the 2016 NCAA singles and doubles champion, had no trouble handling the pace of the hard-hitting left-hander, with McDonald's serve and return especially effective throughout the match. After a round of 16 performance at the Australian Open and this title, McDonald is closing in on the Top 100 again, which is where he was when he suffered his serious injury back in June of 2019.

A day after Alexa Guarachi and Desirae Krawczyk won the doubles title at the WTA 500 in Adelaide, another all-collegian team took a championship at the ATP 250 in Singapore. Top seeds Sander Gille(East Tennessee State) and Joran Vliegen(East Carolina) of Belgium defeated JP Smith(Tennessee) and Matt Ebden of Australia 6-2, 6-3 in the final. Gille and Vliegen, who are a perfect 5-0 in ATP tour finals, did not drop a set all week. For more on their title, see this article from the ATP website.

Bruno Kuzuhara fell short of his second consecutive ITF Grade 1 title today in Porto Alegre Brazil, with the 16-year-old Floridian losing to Swedish qualifier Leo Borg, the son of tennis legend Bjorn Borg. The 17-year-old Borg, who had never contested a Grade 1 final before today, came from behind to defeat No. 3 seed Kuzuhara 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.

Natalia Szabanin of Hungary won her second title of this South American circuit, with the top seed defeating No. 2 seed Diana Shnaider of Russia 6-4, 6-4 in the final. 

The order of play is out for the ITF's Grade A Banana Bowl in Brazil, and because no qualifying was allowed over the weekend, only qualifying matches are on the schedule, with both first round and second round matches expected to be played.  The main draws have been posted, with the same group of US boys who played the event in Porto Alegre: Dali Blanch[1], Kuzuhara[3], Alex Bernard[5], Jack Anthrop[7], Victor Lilov and Ozan Colak, with Aidan Kim, who qualified last week, in qualifying again this week. Just three US girls are in the main draw: Ellie Coleman[4], Alexia Harmon and Alexis Blokhina, with Clervie Ngounoue the top seed in the qualifying.